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Graecopithecus, Potentially the Oldest Known pre-Human


The scientific journal PLoS ONE has recently featured two studies on the hominid Graecopithecus that have special importance to human evolution. Participating in these studies were Emeritus Professor George Theodorou and Assistant Professor Socrates Roussiakis, University of Athens (Faculty of Geology and Geoenvironment), in collaboration with an international team of scientists from many countries (Germany, France, Bulgaria, Canada and Australia).

These studies focus on a fossil of a mandible that was found in 1944 in Pyrgos Vassilissis (Ilion, Attica), nicknamed “El Graeco”, and an upper premolar from Bulgaria found in 2007. Geological investigations in Attica and particularly in Pikermi have revealed that this species lived about 7.2 million years ago together with hipparions, gazelles, antelopes, giraffes, rhinos, hyaenas etc., in a savannah environment.

The specimens indicate that Graecopithecus is possibly the oldest pre-human. Its geological age is older than that of Sahelanthropus tchadensis from Chad (Africa), which was considered the oldest pre-human until now. It supports the hypothesis that the evolutionary split between the human and chimpanzee lineages may have occurred in the eastern Mediterranean, not Africa.

Note that the University of Athens in collaboration with local authorities plan to carry out palaeontological excavations in Attica in order to discover more fossils and, why not, new fossils of Graecopithecus

Messinian age and savannah environment of the possible hominin Graecopithecus from Europe

Potential hominin affinities of Graecopithecus from the Late Miocene of Europe

Fig 1: The mandible of Graecopithecus from Pyrgos Vassilissis (left) and the upper premolar from Bulgaria (right).